Friday, April 14, 2006
Although I don't have a religious bone in my body I do love to find the origin of various celebtations around the year. Here are some interesting thoughts on Easter!
The Word "Easter"
Centuries before Christ, the pagan tribes of Europe worshipped a beautiful goddess of spring named Eostre (EE-ah-tra). Festivals celebrating the end of winter and the birth of spring were held in her honor at the end of March, the time of the vernal equinox. Some historians believe the word Easter is a variation of her name.
Others see a connection between Easter and the rising of the sun in the east.
Historical Easter card
The egg has been called nature's most perfect container. It also is the world's most popular secular symbol for Easter, and the most popular symbol on Hallmark Easter cards.
In all cultures, the egg symbolizes the beginning of life or the universe. A Latin proverb says, "All life comes from an egg." Eggs were dyed and eaten during spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome and colored eggs were given as gifts to celebrate the coming of spring. These cultures regarded the egg as an emblem of the universe, the work of the supreme divinity, the germination of life.
Christians of the Near East adopted this tradition and the egg became a religious symbol it represented the tomb from which Jesus broke forth. The various customs associated with Easter eggs were not recorded in Western Europe until the 15th century. Speculation is that missionaries or knights of the Crusades were responsible for bringing the tradition of coloring eggs westward. In medieval times, eggs often were colored red to symbolize the blood of Christ.
More than 1 billion Easter eggs are hunted in the United States each year in parks, back yards, and on the White House lawn.
Chocolate or candy eggs emerged in the late 1800s.
Plastic Easter eggs made their debut in the early 1960s. More than 100 million plastic eggs are purchased for Easter.
Easter Bunny card
The Easter bunny has its origins in pre-Christian fertility lore. Hares and rabbits served as symbols of abundant new life in the spring season. It really is a hare not a rabbit that symbolizes Easter.
From antiquity hares have been a symbol for the moon, and the first full moon after the vernal equinox determines the date for Easter.
Hares are born with their eyes open, while rabbits are born blind. The hare was thought never to blink or close its eyes, and it is a nocturnal creature, like the moon. The hare also carries its young a month before giving birth like the changing moon erupting into fullness monthly.
According to one legend, the Easter bunny was originally a large, handsome bird belonging to the goddess Eostre. One day she magically changed her pet bird into a hare. Because the Easter bunny is still a bird at heart, he continues to build a straw nest and fill it with eggs.